2012 Plant Delights Nursery March Newsletter

I want to begin with a huge thank you for all the wonderful notes of support we’ve received over the last week. You’ll never begin to know how much those mean, so a big long distance hug to everyone who shared their thoughts. To those who wrote and are going through the same thing, or have recently lost a loved one, our thoughts and prayers go out to you. The solace of a garden takes on a new meaning during times like these.

With such a wonderful winter from a weather perspective, it’s been hard not having the time to be out in the garden, making each precious moment more special as the garden awakens. As one who is naturally far too prone to distraction, I wasn’t sure this newsletter was going to get finished, but fortunately, a lack of sleep has a few advantages, so here we go.

It’s been really great to see so many wonderful folks as I’ve traveled around the country speaking this winter, and thanks to the mild temperatures, I’ve had a surprisingly large number of flights that actually took off and landed on time. The one shocker was a meager 2″ snow last week in Midland, Michigan that knocked out the power lines feeding the auditorium filled with 350 eager gardeners. The staff of our host, Dow Gardens was terrific and Allan Armitage and I had a great time ad-libbing with the audience until the power was restored several hours later.

Just a reminder that we open to the public for our Winter Open Gardens and Nursery this Friday, February 24 and Saturday February 25 from 8-5pm and also the following weekend, Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3 from 8-5pm. This is the same weekend that our friends to the north at Pine Knot Nursery and our friends to the northwest at Camellia Forest Nursery also hold their open houses. We hope you’ll be able to make it a full weekend of finding new cool plants…so far, the weather forecast is looking pretty good. (add links)

We’ve just added several new plants to the sales area for Open House and have also listed some here for those of you who can’t make the trip. Many are in very limited supply, so if you see something that strikes your fancy, best not to delay. Check out our recently added plants here!

The hellebores in the garden look better than ever, so bring your camera along with your friends. As always they’ll be plenty of other plants in flower as well, including the edgeworthias whose fragrance is already wafting through the garden. The amazing array of Helleborus niger hybrids with their outfacing flowers are just amazing, especially Helleborus ‘Walberton’s Rosemary’. This is also our first crop of Helleborus x hybridus ‘Painted Doubles’ from Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne…these are in limited supply and are sure to go fast.

After seeing these in our garden during last winter’s Open House, many folks started asking about the wonderful Cyclamen coum, so we have it back in stock after a long absence.

This is also the first year we’ve offered the amazing native Isopyrum biternatum (False Meadow Rue). This gem begins flowering in January for us and continues into early spring.

Another native we’re offering for the first time is the soon-to-be-endangered native, Arabis georgiana (Georgia rock cress), which is amazingly easy to grow if you have well-drained soils.

Although it’s a woody perennial, we’re listing our second aucuba, Aucuba ‘Hosoba Hoshifu’. This amazing woodland evergreen is quite the collector plant in Japan and most of the clones have been unavailable in the US since our friend Barry Yinger closed his nursery, Asiatica. We already have 57 different clones growing in the garden and we’re waiting for many to get large enough to take cuttings.

We’re also continuing to expand our asarum selection, which have also been very difficult to find after the untimely demise of Asiatica. We continue to post photos as they flower on our Facebook page.

When we were putting together the website last month, we noticed that one of our plant records had been altered…probably by a slip of the finger. Somehow, our last catalog had listed Aster ‘Purple Dome’ as being a shade plant. This is incorrect, and if you purchased it expecting it to be a shade plant, we owe you a refund. If this includes you, please let us know by emailing us at office@plantdelights.com. Very sorry for the error.

A reader from Delaware wrote to ask about fall fertilization of palm trees and whether this was a good thing or not. Visitors to Open House know that we feel very strongly about the use of chemical fertilizers in the garden, which in our opinion is an absolute no-no. Just as chemical fertilizers make plants get larger, so do candy bars make people get larger…just not healthier. Save your chemical fertilizers for your container grown plants. We strongly recommend that only organic fertilizers be applied to the soil, which will benefit the microbes (the tiny living things that you can’t see), which in turn benefit the plants. Any publication which recommends the use of chemical fertilizers in the soil demonstrates a lack of understanding about soil microbes and how natural systems function. Stop and think, who fertilizes all the natural areas around your home? We’re not saying that soil nutritional balance isn’t important…quite the opposite. Just forget all that information you’ve read about what plant likes what fertilizer and the advice that you should only fertilize xxx time of year…it’s all a moot point with organics. Your plants, your microbes, and the waterways nearby will thank you. If you’d like to read more, I strongly recommend the book, “Teaming with Microbes” by Jeff Lowenfels.

Last month’s release of the Plant Hardiness Zone Map caused quite a stir. I’ve even received a few notes from other mail order nurseries who were irate that they would now have to change all of their hardiness zone designations. As I subsequently explained, they would only need to change their zones if they had used the old map incorrectly. There are two ways to determine the hardiness zone for a particular plant…either by the temperature that the plant has survived sans snow cover (correct way) or the location at which the plant survives (incorrect way). These two methods are why you see so much variation in the listed hardiness zones of various plants. If you rate plants by where they survive, you might assume that Musa basjoo is hardy in Zone 5, as you often see it listed. When you check the temperature data, however, you will find that a Musa basjoo in Connecticut which has survived several years, did so because the temperature didn’t drop below 0 degrees F, which is a Zone 7a temperature. To have a Musa basjoo survive -20 degrees F is a whole different matter. As to the comment about why the USDA changed the zones, they didn’t. The new map is simply a reflection of actual temperature data…not someone’s desire to “change zones”. If you still haven’t had enough, the climate scientists who actually analyzed the data and created the map have published a technical paper on the project.

While we’re talking weather, we wrote quite a bit last year about the terrible drought in Texas and Oklahoma, which continues in many parts of those states. New data from the Texas Forest Service shows that up to 500,000,000 (yes, that’s half a billion) trees with a 5″ caliper have already died due to the drought. This equates to 10% of the trees in the entire state of Texas. Parts of Texas are starting to look like the Atacama desert in Chile, which if you don’t know, hasn’t had any measurable precipitation in recorded history. Now, that’s dry! Perhaps Texas needs to set up a fog capture system. If you haven’t heard of these, the idea is pretty cool. Mesh nets are hung in areas that are prone to fog, capturing moist air and turning it into captured water. Of course, you will need to be in an area that gets fog or at least some very serious clouds.

The world of mail order nurseries suffered another hit this month with the bankruptcy of K. Van Bourgondien, which first filed for Chapter 11 protection on January 26 along with its garden center division, Simple Pleasures Flowerbulbs and its Canadian division, J. Onderwater. The combined companies listed assets of $500,000 and debts of 12 million dollars. Hmmm…could be a problem. The company’s 2004 line of credit with Wachovia/Wells Fargo expired in 2011 and we know how banks love to loan money to nurseries right now. An investor stepped in with a loan of 1.1 million dollars to pay off the bank, but the company then defaulted on this loan also. It remains unclear at this time if the company can find a way to remain viable…fingers crossed.

In case you missed it, lawn and garden giant, Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has agreed to plead guilty (if approved by the judge) and pay a fine of $4.5 million to settle a couple of 2008 cases. The first case was for selling 75 million units of wild birdseed that were coated with insecticides Storcide II and Actellic 5E, which killed the birds that ate the seed. According to court records, Scotts continued to sell the seed after they were warned by their own internal chemist and ornithologist. The second incident was for selling pesticides with falsified EPA Registration numbers…OOPS! Part of the fine will go to groups that protect birds. Scotts has also recently sold off its professional division, which has been renamed Everris.

We hope your winter winds down on a good note and your garden gets off to a great 2012 start. In the meantime, we’ll see you on Facebook with more plant pictures and notes from the garden.